Northbound and Down
As a child of the 70s, some of my earliest movie memories are of Smokey and the Bandit. The theme song “Eastbound and Down” has served as my anthem this summer as our Development Director, Jennifer Hayhurst, and I made twice weekly trips to Dallas for the first seven weeks of summer to participate in the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’s GroundFloor program. This program is designed to enable new or existing organizations to apply for funding for groundbreaking ventures to expand their social impact. Throughout the program we attended classes taught by experts in a variety of fields including financial modeling, marketing, strategic planning, board development and more.
At the conclusion of GroundFloor bootcamp, we were matched with two mentors; Cory Ritthaler, Managing Director-Utilities at Accenture Consulting and a NICU father of twins, and Kolt Sarver, VP of Business Technology at Vistra Energy and a NICU uncle. These mentors will work with us for the next eight months on implementing our growth strategy in the Dallas metroplex. With the guidance of this team, we developed three milestones focusing on increasing awareness, growing our program through new hospital relationships and expanding our mission to reach all NICU families throughout the Dallas area. Achieving these milestones will ensure that every NICU family in Dallas has the support they need at the exact moment they need it the most.
Through our work with the mentors, we are aiming to secure a spot as a finalist in the program. As a finalist we will have the opportunity to participate in “One Up the Pitch,” where I will pitch our expansion program in front of thousands of community leaders in Dallas while competing for a prize of up to $200,000.
When we first learned the requirements for the GroundFloor program, we wondered if it could even be done. After 102 driving hours, 6,375 miles, countless cups of coffee and learning I-35 like the back of my hand, we made it. Or in the words of Smokey and the Bandit, we are “doing what they say can’t be done!”
I can honestly say the knowledge, relationships and opportunities gained from this experience is well worth the new set of tires I will need once this is all complete.
Thank you for your support,
Welcome Rachel and Suzy!
Hand to Hold is thrilled to welcome Programs Director Rachel Astorga-McCain and Ambassador Suzy Kellough to our team. Rachel brings her experiences with community outreach, education and project management to her new role as Programs Director. Her daughter, Leila, was born at just 26 weeks in 2016, giving her insight into the emotional and physical toll of a NICU stay on the parent.
Suzy Kellough joined Hand to Hold in June as an Ambassador serving NICU families at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Suzy's passion for helping others has led her to work with seniors and children with special needs for the past 15 years. Her daughter, Alisa, was born at 27 weeks 19 years ago. Suzy uses her personal and professional talents to comfort and encourage parents through their NICU stay and beyond.
Read more about Rachel and Suzy here.
Celebrating Our Volunteers
As a thank you for their hard work, we recently sent all of our dedicated volunteers, including our peer mentors, our fun #FutureSoBright shades! Peer mentor Andrea LeRoy says, "I am SO lucky to be a peer mentor offering support, encouragement, been there/done that moments, and much, much more. It’s an honor to walk the walk with these fellow NICU mommas (and papas!)."
Interested in volunteering with Hand to Hold? Start here!
Black Breastfeeding Week: August 25-31
August 25-31 marks the 6th annual Black Breastfeeding Week, created to help bring awareness to the gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. Recent data from the CDC states that 75% of white women have ever breastfed, compared to only 58.9% of black women.
This year's theme, #LoveOnTop, highlights how love encompasses everything we do as parents, from breastfeeding to nurturing others. Find out more about Black Breastfeeding Week, including local and online events, at blackbreastfeedingweek.org.
From the Blog
Ready...Set...GO! Kindergarten Readiness & My Preemie by Beth Puskas. Back to school season has begun, and many NICU grads are starting kindergarten. Beth shares how she prepared her 29-weeker - and herself - for this exciting new adventure.
Kindergarten Readiness & Redshirting Your Preemie by Theresa Roma. What if your preemie isn't ready for kindergarten? Guest blogger Theresa Roma talks about the academic and emotional factors that led her decision to hold her 25-weeker twins back another year.
Here's the Truth about Postpartum Depression by Brittany Clay. Data shows black women experience higher rates of postpartum depression. Here's one mom's story of how she recognized she needed help.
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Each August we highlight helpful information on breastfeeding a NICU baby or medically-fragile child and share personal stories from moms who've been there. Here's a collection of some of our most informative and relatable articles.